Coronavirus Pandemic: Managing Stress and Anxiety During Social Distancing

HER Expert Panel Spring Roundtable

Local women’s health experts discuss the skills mothers can use to navigate the current COVID-19 pandemic and how they can manage the anxiety and stress of social distancing.

HER Expert Panel - Roundtable Discussion

Roundtable Introduction


Crissy Fishbane:

Hi, I am Crissy Fishbane, co-founder of her Health Collective.  We are delighted and honored to be here today with an all-star cast of local Women’s Health experts here in Raleigh, North Carolina. 

We at HER Health Collective have a two-fold mission.

The first piece of what we are building for moms is a supportive community. We know that women need that network and that support system through every stage of motherhood.  That is something we are working really hard to provide for the women in our community.

The second piece of what we are working to build is access to trustworthy information and resources. We know in today’s day and age that there is an overabundance of information available to women right at our fingertips. A lot of that information might be dated and may not be as accurate as we would like. 

We are working diligently to bring together local experts that have been through a nomination and vetting process in order to provide our moms information that is reliable and trustworthy.  Most recently, we have also been bringing in some national experts and we are really excited to expand in that way.

The overarching mission of HER Health Collective is to change how we approach postpartum care. We know that this will require a multi-faceted approach, but one of the key ways that we aim to do that is by creating a collaborative conversation.  That’s where these incredible experts are coming in.

They are offering their time because they also believe in this mission and we are honored and thrilled to have them here with us. We know that these experts are on the front lines every day serving women and moms.  We know that if we bring them together from all of their different areas of expertise in their different industries, we can have some really great collaborations that can push this conversation forward.

We are going to go ahead and let each of our panelists introduce themselves by stating their name and their area of expertise and then we will dive into today’s topic.

Giving women the permission to sleep more, to eat more, to rest, and support their immune systems first.

Experts In Attendance

Dr. Sierakowski:

Dr. Sierakowski, Integrative, Functional and Primary Care Doctor. Very very happy to be here.

Jessica Altemara:

Jessica Altemara, I’m a board certified lactation consultant in private practice.

Dr. Amanda Seavey:

Hi, I’m Amanda Seavey. I’m a clinical psychologist and a generalist but have a specialty in sleep.

Anna Lutz:

Hello, I’m Anna Lutz. I’m a registered dietitian. I specialize in eating disorders and family feeding.

Katherine Andrew:

I’m Katherine Andrew and I’m also a registered dietitian nutritionist. I work with all different kinds of situations including digestive and hormone health.

Dr. Lindsay Moses:

Hi, I’m Lindsey Moses and I am a physical therapist at Grace Physical Therapy and Pelvic Health and we specialize in working with women, men, and children with pelvic floor dysfunction.

Dr. Lindsay Mumma:

I’m Lindsay Mumma, I am a chiropractor and I own Triangle Chiropractic and Rehabilitation. I have a focus on Women’s Health and Rehabilitation.

I think some of the anxiety that some moms are experiencing is this feeling that they’re not doing enough. That they need to be doing it perfectly. That they need to all of a sudden work a full-time job and be at home full-time and it needs to look a certain way. Just remember that doing whatever is right for your family is what’s best.

Anxiety and COVID-19

Cindi Michaelson:

I will go ahead and get us going.  

You all received a message from us earlier that we are condensing down from 2 hours into 1 hour.  We have provided some questions for you and then we’re going to just open the floor up and have us all start talking, so feel free to take yourself off of mute and join in whenever you feel that you have something that you would like to say. 

Our questions to you are:

  • What skills can moms use to help navigate the current pandemic and help them manage the anxiety and stress?
  • How are you personally managing and integrating suggestions that are being provided to the general public?
  • What are you seeing most in your clients in regard to the current health situation? 

I’d like to open the floor up for everyone. Feel free to say anything that you think would be pertinent for the moms to hear in regards to the questions that I just mentioned.


What Experts are Seeing

Jessica Altemara:
I’m seeing a lot of moms who I know personally, who I’m working with professionally, who are finding virtual means, like this, and using the technology at hand to reach out and get support.

People are doing online breastfeeding support groups to help continue providing assistance. I think that what’s really nice about support groups is that they tend to be hands-off anyway and so it is viable to do virtually. I’m offering virtual consults as part of how I’m navigating things for myself right now and keeping myself and my family as safe as possible. I would say a support group is a lot easier to reproduce virtually than something that’s more hands-on.

Dr. Lindsay Mumma:

I sometimes work from home, but I know this is a new avenue for a lot of people. It’s challenging to navigate working from home if that’s not something that you’re used to. 

I am doing it right now!  I’m sitting outside and working because that’s part of how I keep myself grounded.  My bare feet are on the ground right now. The sun is shining on me. There’s a beautiful breeze. Just stepping outside is really helpful for this time right now specifically, because if we are staying distant from other people, for a lot of people, that means not leaving the building. There’s great benefit to getting direct Vitamin D exposure and also for re-grounding to the Earth rhythms. It feels better for me to be going outside multiple times per day.

Dr. Elizabeth Sierakowski:

Coming from the MD Primary Care perspective, I have a lot of patients, people, family and friends asking two major questions:

  1. Is it real? What is important here? What do we trust? What resources do we use?
  2. What do we do about it?

Be very very careful about going down the internet rabbit hole right now. I think everybody has an opinion. Everyone is politicizing. I think I’ve gotten more emails in the past week and a half than I’ve gotten in the past year. It seems like everything from clothing companies to the cleaning company to… Everybody is using this as a way to communicate which is wonderful but is also the way to sell their product. 

Be very very careful about the resources that you’re using. The CDC is still our best bet right now, even though they are not perfect by any means, but at least they are objective. I’m still using that. The biggest thing that I read recently was weighing the cost of being wrong against the chance of being wrong. Right now we just can’t take the chance. By doing your very best using social distancing. The panel can discuss how to do that in a way that doesn’t feel isolating, just distant. The basics, taking good care of yourself, like Dr. Mumma just said is really number one.

Dr. Amanda Seavey:

Something I see come up, is that it’s difficult to identify what about this is so difficult.  Yes, we are distant and yes we’re feeling a bit more isolated, nervous and anxious about what’s going on, but thinking more personally and specifically about what parts of our identity have been compromised by this. 

I think of myself as a great friend and a social butterfly and a therapist who likes to be face to face. Thinking about being able to articulate those feelings for myself, “This is super difficult for me because…” and then filling that in so we can understand and validate that experience for ourselves. 

Katherine Andrew:

I posted something and was alarmed at the amount of response I got. I personally felt exhausted this week. I’ve also been trying to spend most of our time outside which feels amazing. I slept for about 10 hours the other night and it was so refreshing. 

I think people underestimate everything that we’re dealing with right now. People are thinking “I’m home and I shouldn’t be hungry because I’m not going to all my usual places and I’m not doing my usual exercise. I shouldn’t be stressed because I’m not working the same way” and yet we’re just emotionally and physically and mentally exhausted. 

Giving women the permission to to sleep more and to eat more, to rest and support their immune systems first through some of those basic life giving skills has been pretty eye-opening this week.

Anna Lutz:

What pops into my mind is this comparison that I think is happening because we’re online more and there’s all this “well, I’m doing this at my house, and you need to have a schedule and this is what it should look like.” Then there’s been jokes about that. 

The biggest thing to remember is that each little family’s home and situation is different. There’s nothing you have to do except for doing what’s right for your family. 

For some people that might mean a schedule because that’s really grounding for them, and for some people that’s anxiety-producing to have a very strict schedule. Personally, the schedule I work around is just having regular meals and snacks. Doing what we need to do, and then remembering that it’s been 3 to 4 hours, therefore it’s time to eat again. Then stopping and eating. 

I think some of the anxiety that some moms are experiencing is this feeling that they’re not doing enough. That they need to be doing it perfectly. That they need to all of a sudden work a full-time job and be at home full-time and it needs to look a certain way. Just remember that doing whatever is right for your family is what’s best. 

Also, give us all time to sink into this. I’ve been trying to tell myself, “what it looks like now and next week could be really different than what it looks like if this continues a month out, or two months out.”

Dr. Elizabeth Sierakowski:

One of the biggest things that I see in my clinic when I’m taking care of women at any phase in life, is this lack of “me time.” I find that right now, It’s one of the biggest questions that I’m getting as women are feeling like they already didn’t have any me time and now there’s all of this “should” and “I’m supposed to” on top of “and the children are home” and “the spouse is home” and “the dog is home.” 

Trying to keep all of that in balance and take on everybody else’s emotions because it’s often the mom being the rock, the one that if everybody else is stressed, then she’s supposed to be keeping everybody calm. 

How many times just in those last couple sentences did we use the words “supposed to?” You don’t have to also be your kids teacher. You don’t have to also be the cleaning person. You don’t have to also do everything at this time. Giving ourselves some grace under this very unusual set of circumstances is really, really important. 

Jessica Alemara:

A lot of the mom’s that I work with are often in a place where they are on maternity leave. 

For some mom’s it’s their happy place because they don’t have a job outside the home that they have to go to, but for other mom’s I work with, they will quietly admit to me that they’re kind of glad that they’re going to get to go back to work and have some sense of themselves and some purpose outside of the kind of vague accomplishments that you have when you’re just at home with the baby. 

I’m hearing subtly from mom’s on maternity leave, “Well, now my maternity leave isn’t ending. I was kind of throwing myself into this time with my baby because I was anticipating that I would be going back to work and being more divided, so I set this precedent for needing to be completely present.” 

I think that’s true for a lot of people who work outside the home. When they are at home with their kids, they establish a precedent of being really present with their kids, which is great, however doing that 24/7 becomes unsustainable. 

We have this pressure that a lot of us put on ourselves and I’m seeing in a lot of the people that I work with who were on the cusp of going back to a job outside the home, are really struggling with feeling like they set a precedent of always being present and always being entertaining and always filling in those gaps. Where suddenly, there is this expanse of time that feels overwhelming if that’s a “should” that has been established for yourself.

However I can show up today is okay. However, I am, however I can show up, that's enough. That's okay.

Managing Emotions

Dr. Amanda Seavey:

Something that I’ve been thinking about, saying to myself and then I hear all of us saying it in different ways, is having the starting point be “however I can show up today is okay. However, I am, however I can show up, that’s enough. That’s okay.” And just starting from that point. 

Anna Lutz:

Absolutely! I think this is so unprecedented, right? All of our pressures that we’re putting on ourselves are made up because this has never happened. And so we can keep remembering, “lets just do what I need to do today. What can I do today”? There’s no previous measurement of this. 

Dr. Lindsay Mumma

I think that’s a really good point! We don’t really have any sense of what a “normal” might look like right now because this is something untouched thus far for all of us. 

My practice is still open right now. We’re trying to do our part to help people from going into their primary care physicians right now who do not have infectious diseases. So, if they have musculo-skeletal pain then they would come into my office instead of clogging up the medical system. They’re [patients] so grateful for that because it feels a little bit normal. And so anything that they can kind of grasp onto that does feel like “a sense of normal” like walking into their chiropractors office, “And this looks the same. Okay. I’m back in a safe place because I remember what this is like.” 

We have just been reminding all of our patients that they always, and I’m going to say this with a grain of salt because as I’m sitting here, my iPad is covered in pollen, but you always have breath, with the exception of the pollen…so much of it, but you always have breath and you always have sound, and for the most part you have movement, and those are things that you can utilize to down-regulate your nervous system. Reconnecting with those things helps to bring about that sense of peace that comes with normalcy that a lot of people are probably craving right now.

Katherine Andrew:

We’ve been listening to videos of the beach and whatever else to the point of the sound. We actually walked to school twice this week just to see school and acknowledge, “there it is, still there.” It’s not like all these things have crumbled and fallen apart. 

I guess in some ways it’s a great optical illusion that we have control. And now that we have no control, it feels like, “Wait! Did we ever have control? But… I had rhythm and I had systems. Figuring out how to get those back in place seems really important for moms right now.

Dr. Lindsay Mumma

Katherine, you just said control and that’s such a good point! 

We often think “oh, yeah, I’m just in control of my day.” And right now we don’t have control but we still have choice, and if you have awareness, awareness brings choice, and choice is better than no choice. 

So, taking a step back and realizing, “Okay, what is going on? What and where do I have a choice?”  This feels better than having absolutely no control over any of the situation going on around you.

Katherine Andrew:

Yes! It’s a great lesson. I think Dr. Seavey said before, “who am I?” 

It helps pull out all of that, in the sense of “I don’t have control, but did I really ever have control?” No, I just had regular routines in place that made me feel secure and safe. Those choices were there before and they can be there now. It just looks different.


Navigating Social Distancing

Jessica Altemara:
As someone who is an extrovert and finds that without regular contact, I get pretty depressed, I’ve been really thinking about the difficulty of that in this situation. 

I have I have four kids and a husband and I’m feeling like I definitely have plenty of people to connect with, but there are also single parents who are home all day with a really intense kid and also struggling with that  and also struggling with children who change households and how to navigate all of those kinds of things. 

I’m curious what other people’s thoughts are on being an extrovert and finding connection when it’s best not to physically connect with anybody.

Dr. Lindsay Moses:

I’m just like you and I thrive from social contact so this has been really challenging. 

I’ve been talking to neighbors across the street. I’ve even had my kids do a lot of virtual play dates, which they are loving. I gave my five-year-old my phone yesterday and she was on FaceTime with her friend for a good 40 minutes. 


So, I’m starting some bad habits there, but I’m really trying to do some group FaceTime calls with friends and then family. I’m encouraging patients to do that with me if they feel like they need to reach out. I think the only way we’re going to get through this, in a sane manner, is to keep connections open. So, thank God for technology.

Dr. Lindsay Mumma:

A friend of mine, Laura Brunner posted this, that right now we are physically distancing and not social distancing. 

It feels a lot better to those of us who are extroverts because we can still be social without physically interacting with other people. Ever since I saw her post, I was like, yeah, this is okay. Not knowing what the endpoint of this is a little bit scary still because I really do like to be around people too. But the idea that we are physically distancing and not socially distancing is a play on words that I like a lot.

Anna Lutz:

And it does really mean we have to be okay with us and our children being on screens more. Probably something we’ve all been fighting to not do and limit that in different ways. 

I have a middle schooler who I have never let do FaceTime. Now she’s doing Google Hangouts. I had told her “no, we’re not doing that, we’re not doing that.” As of Monday, I said, “you now have my permission to do Google Hangouts,” which I never thought I’d be saying. 

So, it’s a shift and you have to be like, “This is okay. This is how we’re going to stay connected” and be grateful for it, I guess.

Worry is really our mind’s attempt to control. It gives us a sense that “I’m doing something. I’m prepared because I’ve been thinking this way.” But, also at the same time recognizing that turning that off is like trying to turn off fight or flight. It’s probably going to be pretty difficult to do.

What can we take away?

Crissy Fishbane:

When this ends, when we move forward, what lessons do you think that this will leave with moms? How will it change how we mom? Will it change it? Will we go back to our old ways or is this going to cause a shift in how we approach these things?

Anna Lutz:

Piggybacking on what I just said, maybe we can be more graceful and lenient about lots of different things and see that maybe we don’t have as much control as we all think we do over things. 

I hope that we end up putting less pressure on ourselves through this experience, rather than more. I think typically our mom culture right now is a lot of pressure on ourselves. 

Jessica Altemara: 

I’m seeing a lot of people posting on Facebook saying that they feel like they’re just getting to know their kids. 

An incredible amount of fairly unstructured time is not something that we really get. I feel like I’m getting to know myself better because I’m sitting with myself more than I have in a long time. Eventually you get Facebooked out and you have to just sit with yourself. 

There are a lot of people who rarely hold space with their kids for just sharing energy together and I’ve always been a big fan of holding space for feelings and for connection. I think that this is forcing that. 

I see a lot of people posting and saying, “you know, I think I’m going to take unstructured vacation with my kids on purpose after all of this, when we settle back into regular life.” They are finding that having more time together where they’re not going to an activity, when they’re not interacting with that activity, they’re not doing homework, they’re not making dinner, or they’re not doing bedtime routines. They’re just having to just sit with their kids and actually see what things look like when it’s not directed. 

I hear a lot of people saying that they are really enjoying that, and I’m sure some people are not. I think the more your personality jives with your kids personality, the more likely that’s going to be something enjoyable. I think that unstructured time and holding space is hopefully something that we hold on to as a culture.  I honestly suspect most of us will probably fall into a lot of the same things. Kids will go back to extracurriculars, parents will go back to work and all of that structure will come in.

If we’re lucky, we will gain an appreciation for unstructured time out of this. I’m hopeful about that.

Katherine Andrew:

I’ve actually seen the same thing with partners. 

I think that’s been kind of cool to see whole family units out walking together. I had a friend texting the other day saying she hadn’t spent as much time with her husband in months. We’re all home, so I think there is more of that down time and I’m hopeful that that strengthens families.

Dr. Amanda Seavey:

One of the things that crisis really does, is highlight our core values. 

The things where I’m feeling most challenged, or are most difficult, or I’m the most upset about is probably pointing to something that’s really important to me. Having unstructured time and having a crisis like this allows for that to come forward. It would be lovely if that would help us transition into having more of that in our everyday lives.

Dr. Elizabeth Sierakowski:

From a functional care perspective, really from a whole perspective, this is one of the greatest social experiments of our time, since something else that has really impacted the entire world in this way, this is completely unprecedented. 

But I’m hoping that what we can get out of this is a lot of what I work on with people every day, and there’s a couple small pieces.  

One is, this is an excellent opportunity to learn to practice micro self care, especially when we’re talking about the “shoulds” and “supposed to’s” of being home and all these new roles.

It doesn’t take a lot. It just takes frequency. And I think we try to be ultimately efficient in our day, you know, you get on and want to pop on and be completely and perfectly on all day and then turn off at night, be perfectly off, and sleep perfectly.  Which is just not sustainable. Which is usually when people come to see me, and as much as I Iove seeing you I would rather that people find sustainability in their day to day lives. 

I’ve noticed that teleworking, or this staying at home time is allowing people to be productive in short bursts and then they take breaks. They go outside, to Dr. Mumma’s point. They move and they breathe, they go take care of the kid, and they make a snack, and they have a bath in the middle of the day because you can or because somebody got dirty because you went outside, and you come back and do more productivity. 

My office is also open and everybody’s working very hard and I touch base frequently throughout the day and everybody is getting a ton done and then taking a break and getting outside. 

What I am finding is that this allows for a short burst of decompression throughout the day and then we re-establish a normal daytime-nighttime architecture.  

There’s less need for this intense escaping at the end of a long routine day because you’re not forcing this on, on, on all day long and then you’re exhausted and the only thing you can do is figure out how to check out, which is usually through electronics, which is something else that interrupts sleep and keeps us awake. Or lot’s of wine, can I just say I really hate “mommy juice” – it drives me bonkers. I like wine, I really do, but the idea that it’s this requirement for motherhood that you have to check out at the end of the day with wine makes me really sad.

Anyway, I’m hopeful that this time at home reestablishes that you don’t have to be perfectly efficient to have a good day.

Jessica Altemara:

I think if we are really lucky then one of the things we’ll find out is that as a culture we discover that working and parenting can happen side by side in a lot of jobs, not all jobs but for a lot of jobs. 

I remember years ago, when I was a new mom, I was reading a magazine article about how when the people who wrote and produced this magazine they did it with their kids on site and that they juggled work together with their kids.  Sometimes they were working with a baby on their lap and sometimes they traded off who was going to entertain a toddler while the other one worked. They sort of worked as a village and a community to be able to work and create something that was really amazing while also having their children on hand or close by and being able to connect with them regularly throughout the day.  

That isn’t going to be possible with all jobs. I think a lot of people here have jobs where that wouldn’t be as feasible.  But I do think that there are a lot of jobs where people might be able to juggle that. I think if we’re really lucky we will find out as a culture that the degree of separation between parents and children for some people doesn’t have to be as extreme as it’s become. That we can juggle and it might be good for everybody.

Dr. Lindsay Moses:

Something out of this experience also is that… I mean, if we just pause and think of all the good things that are happening, and all the good things that people are doing around the country right now.  

With my kids we tend to do charitable things around the holidays primarily, but we’ve heard some amazing stories today about people stitching masks together to drop off in emergency rooms. And you know, I had my kids knock on my elderly neighbors door today to ask “Can we get you anything?”

You know, I think this is an awesome time to be kind and reinforce teaching our kids about charitable work. I really hope that that makes an impression and that’s something that we can carry on with more long-term.

Dr. Lindsay Mumma:

To sort of take things on a little bit of a darker turn, for a lot of people this is facing the reality of mortality.  We are all faced with this every single day, but we tend to push it off and this has really brought it to the forefront.  To Dr. Seavey’s point, it’s really bringing it back to our core values. What is really the most important in my life right now and have I been prioritizing my priorities?  Because, you know, if this is it then what does that feel like in me and how am I living my life rather than just existing through it? 

I’ve had a couple of really deep conversations with friends about “now that  I’m facing death these are the things that I’m thinking about.” You know, that’s a pretty big slap in the face and it can kind of catch you off-guard.  But, if you sort of recognized… okay so balance is not a thing. It’s just feedback going too far in one direction and feedback going back the other way. So that perfect balance doesn’t exist.  It’s finding where you’ve been slightly out of balance. Now it’s a good kind of gut check of “what have I been living?” Is it in alignment with my core values, or is it not? Because, this is the one shot we’ve got.  Until further notice, who knows, maybe there’s another round, but as far as I know this is the only life I’ve got.

Dr. Elizabeth Sierakowski:

Absolutely! I’m reading an awesome book right now called The Road to Character.  He talked about the resume versus the eulogy. They’re just two very different sets of characteristics. 

What do you live for? What is the purpose and the dignity? And ultimately, it’s a lot of what I think a lot of us get to underneath what we do, and you know medical care is one thing,  but if there isn’t purpose and isn’t dignity then what is the point? To reach out, having compassion for other people, supporting each other in times of difficulty instead of withdrawing. That it is physical distancing not social distancing. These are all super important lessons for all of us to learn. If we learn that with our children, how much more powerful!

Jessica Altemara:

I think we are also facing a time when a lot of people are having a fear of scarcity and feeling a sense of scarcity.  People are sometimes struggling to find what they need at the grocery store and dealing with the concept that some jobs or insecure right now or some income is and a lot of sources of comfort are not available, if going out to eat was a big source of comfort then that’s not really available. 

I think that goes back to the concept of looking at our core values and figuring out our priorities, but also examining the systems that we work in and I do think that people are, hopefully for the better, starting to say, okay how are we sourcing our nourishment and is that happening in a way that is sustainable?  What are we depending on for our system and how fragile are these systems for us to really start to examine.  

I think that what some people are learning is they have more resilience than they thought they did. I think that’s the best lesson to learn from this, but what some people are lapsing into instead is anxiety and fear.  

Working on how we can make resiliency our focus can be something that helps us come out of this feeling stronger.  That’s what happens with struggle, right? People can struggle and come out of that. I see it all the time with my clients who are really in the weeds. They have a new baby and they’re dealing with so much stuff and nothing’s going the way they wanted it to, that they thought it would, and when they emerge from that process they either look back and go, “Wow, I did it. I handled it. I was tough. I was resilient.  We made it and now I can do almost anything,” or they come out of that feeling broken and less confident. 

I would love to hear from the mental health people in this group about building resilience and tools and tips for turning struggle into resilience for people.

Dr. Amanda Seavey:

One of the things that I’ve been talking about with people this week, is expecting that our minds are going to worry and understanding what that really is.  

Worry is really our mind’s attempt to control.  It gives us a sense that “I’m doing something. I’m prepared because I’ve been thinking this way.” But, also at the same time recognizing that turning that off is like trying to turn off fight or flight. It’s probably going to be pretty difficult to do. Recognizing that it’s something the mind is trying to do, it’s trying to control.  Saying “thank you, mind. I so appreciate you trying to protect me and be there for me. I don’t think this is helpful right now.” Then reengaging in something, some kind of activity in the present moment and grounded in our values. So engaging with our mind in that way is something that I’ve been working on with people a lot this week.

Anna Lutz:

To add on, for a lot of my clients this is bringing up a trauma response, which is what Dr. Seavey is referring to.  It’s reminding them of food insecurity as a child, a chaotic household, not knowing what’s going to happen or who’s in charge.  So they’re having these responses which are making it hard for them to eat. 

I have been talking them through somatic tools to ground them, to bring them to the present. Let’s put our feet on the floor. During my telehealth sessions a lot of my clients start off sitting on their bed, or they’re sitting in a comfy chair, so I’ll invite them to put their feet on the floor. Let’s find the four corners of the room.  I’ll sometimes do a tour of my office. You know, this is where I am, this is my space, to tell their body that this is what is really happening right now.

I feel like all of those cancellations right at first, a week ago, that felt like the threat to everyone. What’s going to happen next? What’s going to be cancelled next? 

Remember that’s not really the threat.  That’s what we’re trying to do to protect ourselves. To remind our bodies that we’re safe right now.  You know, you’re doing this to feel safe, to be safe. 

I’ll talk with them (clients) about using different senses that can be grounding. For some people doing movement is grounding for them, it regulates the nervous system.  We are having a lot of these kinds of conversations this week to help them so that they can eat, and eat the amount that their body needs.


Financial Strain

Crissy Fishbane:

Any advice or suggestions for those moms and families that are facing financial hardship through this, perhaps the loss of a job either of themselves or their spouse?

Katherine Andrew:

Whoever mentioned systems before, I think it was Jessica, I think that might be a pro. I hope, I really hope that through this whole process we are really seeing where those huge gaps are in the way that we run society and the people that are being affected the most by it right now. The low income people in our community who don’t have access to multiple devices at home, who don’t have access to the Internet,  who can’t afford to take a day off work.

We have the luxury of sitting in an air-conditioned home, with a lot of benefits.  I’m hopeful that this entire crisis will help shed some light on, paid sick leave and all these other systems that people have been talking about for a while, but there hasn’t been a crisis to bring them to light. So that goes back to the previous question. I’ll leave it at that.

Jessica Altemara

Katherine, I wanted to ask you something…  

In a time when sourcing food might be limited, where income might be limited for purchasing food, where the government systems for somebody who doesn’t have income to purchase might not be as available, I was wondering what you would recommend as essentials for meeting our nutritional needs to have around the house that might be the most accessible.

Katherine Andrew:

There’s a few ways I could answer that. One thing I will say is certainly accessibility is a little harder in Raleigh, but a lot of the farmers markets have been bountiful with things right now because so many of these farmers don’t have restaurants to sell to and so there’s actually not a shortage of food in some ways in our country right now.  The accessibility is obviously a huge part of that. I went to the farmers market yesterday in Raleigh and there was just a ton of food to be had.

So that is one thing, is just thinking more creatively for some. I would say that the stores that are the most out of food are the wealthier area stores where people can afford to stock up.  So in some ways it would be the same answer that it always is, right? It’s not hoarding. It’s going with whatever fresh foods you can afford.  

Certainly frozen vegetables if you can find them, that’s the hard thing to find in certain stores. But again, in some stores there’s not a shortage of those.  Being able to find things that will last you a little longer so you’re not having to go to the store often. Any of those pantry supplies, like whole grains, beans, frozen veggies, frozen fruits.  Those are all fabulous options for people right now to be able to stretch their dollars but also to maximize their nutrition.

I would like to leave everybody with my favorite quote, which is that “we can only do what we can do, with what we’ve got, with where we are.”  But if we maximize those things we can accomplish an awful lot.

Expert Advice

Crissy Fishbane:
Just keeping an eye on the time… 

Imagine you are in front of a room, it’s a room full of moms, they are facing this situation and you have a moment to just share one phrase, one piece of advice with them. What would you tell them?

Cindi Michaelson:

I’d also add in there, what you yourself are doing as well.

Katherine Andrew:

I’m trying to live for today and not plan, because I see the worry rapidly increase the more I think about the future and the unknown.  

I’m trying to with every minute, with every hour and just figure out how I can be, to Dr. Sierakowski’s point, how can I make that routine? How can I be helpful and productive right now, but not long-term.  Really trying to live in the moment right now when we really don’t have an understanding of what’s going to happen next.

Dr. Lindsay Mumma:

I have a really good friend who’s in chemo for metastatic breast cancer right now, and she shared with me that someone had shared an image with her, it was “thus far, I have a track record of getting through things that is 100%. So, if you’re here right now, then you have made it. You have made it through so many things before.  You can expect that. That’s your track record.” We use those types of statistics, and other things. Right now, your track record is 100%. So, keep that in your mind and in your heart right now.

Jessica Altemara:

I saw a meme that basically said “I just spent all day vacillating between being worried that I’m overreacting and being worried that I’m underreacting and never really knowing.”  I think that one of the things that I would want to say to others, to a roomful of parents, would be that most of us are feeling that way.  

I think that people are still feeling a need to present a face on social media which, at this point, is all that most of us have. So social media really starts to be your only reality. People are still working to put up a face of “this is the homework corner that I made” and “here’s our new routine” and “look at what we’re baking.”  It’s really easy to start to feel like I’m the only one who feels like this is really hard. This isn’t just something I’m going to thrive through. This isn’t just a fun experiment for me.

I think I would want more people to know that most of us are having struggles where, you know, we might have moments where we enjoy things, but a lot of people are feeling really overwhelmed.  It’s okay to feel that way.  

Keep sourcing support.  You know, when you have an appointment that you have to get to, and you have this external motivation to do it, it’s a lot easier to do that.  Trying to find ways to give ourselves accountability. To check in and connect with people, people that we trust and can be vulnerable with, that we can talk about what we’re struggling with. I think that’s really important. 

Co-regulation is necessary for all of us and I think for a lot of moms, the only people to kind of get that experience for them are other moms. So if you’re only sourcing support from within your home and you don’t have another mom in your home, then you might not be able to talk to somebody who gets it. Finding a way to connect with other people who get it can be really important. 

For me, besides doing that, venting with my friends.  Even a text here and there, just finding ways to do that. Even if I can’t have a quiet corner in my house to actually have a video chat very often, I’m trying to connect with my friends, vent to each other, and brainstorm with each other and have good ideas for getting through each day. Taking it one day at a time to Katherine’s point.

On a positive note, finding projects. I went to the grocery store and they didn’t have any of the usual meat that I like to cook so I got some weird meat.  I’m going to learn to cook it. 

Katherine Andrew:

I found a duck at Wegmans yesterday. Nothing else, but a ton of duck.  If anyone wants to start cooking more duck, go to Wegmans.

Dr. Lindsay Mumma:

I love duck

Jessica Altemara

Beef tail

Dr. Lindsay Mumma

Oh, beef tail’s very good.

Jessica Altemara:

Tell me your tips when we’re done here.

Dr. Lindsay Moses:

I think now’s an awesome time to set some goals, but not to hold myself 100% accountable for obtaining them. I mean, now is an awesome time.  There are so many free resources out there. Try the yoga class. Try the Pilates class from home. Take advantage of all the free resources that are out there. Take an online art class with your kids.  I hope we’ll all have a whole new skill set when this is all said and done. 

Dr. Amanda Seavey

I think along the same lines as what has been said, one of the most important things right now is compassion for ourselves.  You know, in that, we are human and it’s okay to not be okay. I think that would be what I would want to say.

Anna Lutz

I’ll piggyback on that. 

You know, we can have these wonderful times where we are with our kids, but it’s also okay if you are all of a sudden arguing more with your partner because you’re having to share a lot of space with them.  Or maybe you’re losing your temper more with your children.  

Give yourself some grace. Give yourself the time to figure this out and to not think that everyone’s out there just enjoying it all, going on long walks all the time and happy. 

So, you know, I’ve had to go on walks by myself the last few times because I’ve had to separate from my family.  That’s okay too. Whatever that is, that’s okay, too.

Dr. Elizabeth Sierakowski:

I have labor on my mind, everything is being compared to that transition right now. But you know this is a big transition, and for me as a brand new mom… I mean, I’ve delivered babies,  but it’s not the same as having one.  

Knowing what motherhood is going to bring is a complete unknown for me.  There’s a really great term for this unknowing, and it’s intermediary space that I learned very recently called liminal space and it’s this moment in between the trapeze bar where you’ve launched off of one safety and you’re not sure what’s going to happen next.  It can be very primal and very disconcerting. It can be scary or it can be this place of total pure potentiality. Who knows what door or window is going to open next for each of us. I think sitting with that can be important.

I would like to leave everybody with my favorite quote, which is that “we can only do what we can do, with what we’ve got, with where we are.”  But if we maximize those things we can accomplish an awful lot. From a medical perspective, immunity always depends on inner health first and most of that is free or nearly free in this country.  Rest, hydrate, move and nourish the best that you can, again with what you’ve got. You know, supplements and products that people are selling are for the most part not necessary. It’s fine tuning on top of the basics. Remember the basics, lean into your family, focus on the choices you can control today.

Parting Words

Cindi Michaelson:

On behalf of Crissy and myself, and all of the moms we will be sharing this information with, from the bottom of our hearts we sincerely thank you.

Crissy Fishbane:

One last note, that was a wonderful conversation. I think it could have gone in a lot of directions but throughout the vast majority of this past hour I have felt uplifted and I am very excited to share that with our moms. So thank you for that too.

The panelists are leaders in their respective industries and are committed to collaborating in an effort to change the conversation around postpartum care.

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